About Me

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Canberra-based naturalist, conservationist, educator since 1980. I’m passionate about the natural world (especially the southern hemisphere), and trying to understand it and to share such understandings. To that aim I’ve written several books (most recently 'Birds in Their Habitats' and 'Australian Bird Names; origins and meanings'), run tours all over Australia, and for the last decade to South America, done a lot of ABC radio work, chaired a government environmental advisory committee and taught many adult education classes – and of course presented this blog, since 2012. I am the recipient of the Australian Natural History Medallion, the Australian Plants Award and most recently a Medal of the Order of Australia for ‘services to conservation and the environment’. I live happily in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise surrounded by a dense native garden and lots of birds.

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Daisies Part Two; a family album

In my last post, I introduced the wonderful world of daisies, one of the world's two great plant families (along with orchids) in terms of number of species, which are found in all continents where plants thrive. I introduced a range of habitats in which daisies grow, and showed what makes up the complex hoax of clustered tiny florets that we (and, more importantly, presumably pollinating insects) see as a showy flowers. I ended with a look at some pollinating insects at work on daisies, and the two main strategies for distributing seeds which help make daisies so successful. And I also ended with a promise to be back this time for a look through some pages of the daisy family album; thanks for coming back for that!

Though we think of non-native daisies as garden ornamentals (eg dahlias, chrysanthemums, dahlias, gerberas and zinnias) there are also some important edible ones, such as lettuce, globe and Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, chamomile, calendula, absinthe and tarragon, and oil-producers such as sunflowers and safflowers. On the downside of the ledger are serious environmental and agricultural weeds such as thistles, boneseed/Bitou Bush, dandelions, Crofton Weed, Bathurst and Noogoora Burr, ragweeds and hawkweeds.

Spear Thistle Cirsium vulgare, Nowra, south coast New South Wales.
Just one of many thistle species which make our lives harder, and one of very many exotic
and invasive daisies which Australia would be better off without.

I'm going to start with a few non-Australian daisies from three continents to set the wider picture, then focus on some of the 300 Australian genera (just a few of them, I promise).

Formerly Aster (now generally called Symphyotrichum) vahlii, Seno Otway, in the snowy
eternal winds of Patagonian Chile. It is a widely accepted convention that a family of
plants (or animals) is named for the first genus in the family to be described.
The whole daisy family, Asteraceae, is based on the genus Aster, a big Eurasian genus.
Daisies originally described as Aster from elsewhere, like this one, have since been moved
to other genera. This is the classic daisy 'flower' with yellow fertile disc florets
and numerous surrounding white sterile ray florets to attract attention.
Staying in this cold wind-blasted landscape near the tip of South America where
flowers are surprisingly profuse, here is Chiliotrichum diffusum. This tough daisy is found
only in the far south of the continent and on the Falkland Islands.

And from the nearby spectacular Torres del Paine National Park, here is the lovely
Perezia recurvata (which I would not have immediately recognised as a daisy).
The genus is mostly restricted to the high Andes.

Another daisy that I'd not necessarily have recognised (though the resemblance to thistles
is obvious once you get your eye in) is the 'Flower of the Andes' Chuquiraga jussieui,
here at nearly 4,000 metres above sea level in El Cajas NP, southern Ecuador. It is the
unofficial national flower of Ecuador, but sadly endangered.

Chuquiraga is the main food source of the Ecuadorian Hillstar Oreotrochilus chimborazo.
This gorgeous hummingbird is found only above 3600 metres in the páramo, the near-treeless
tundra of the northern Ecuadorian Andes.

One daisy habitat that I was unable to show you last time was rainforest, though there are certainly some rainforest daisies in Australia. Here are a few from rainforests elsewhere to compensate. 

Mutisia sp. in the cloud forests of Manu Reserve in southern Peru. This big genus
of some 60 species is spread along the full length of the Andes.

Senecio sp. from lower down in the Manu. This huge genus (currently nearly 1300 species though it is likely to be broken up) is one of the largest genera of flowering plants and is found over much of the world.

Chilco Baccharis neae in wet temperate rainforest in Alerce Andino NP near
Puerto Varas in southern Chile. Another huge genus of some 500 species
found throughout the Americas, though mostly in the south.
Red Bean Tree, Red Sandalwood (and many other names) Adenanthera pavonina, from a
rainforest elevated boardwalk in Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Native to southern
China and India it has become widely naturalised (including northern Australia,
and in Borneo).
And with that, back to Australia for some more Family members. To prevent family squabbles I'll introduce them in alphabetical order. A couple of these were taken in botanic gardens but most were in the wild.
Winged Everlasting Ammobium alatum, Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park, in
the Canberra Arboretum. This NSW grassland plant makes a superb garden plant,
and has thus become established in other states.
Hill Daisy Brachyscome aculeata in Namadgi NP above Canberra, a common daisy of the ranges.
When French botanist and daisy specialist Henri Cassini published the name in 1816 he used this
spelling but soon realised that it was grammatically incorrect and corrected it to Brachycome.
Unfortunately, despite widespread support in Australia for retaining the 'correct' version,
it was eventually deemed (in 1993) that his original incorrect version must stand. Hmm.
Variable Daisy Brachyscome ciliaris, Ormiston Pound, western Tjoritja/
MacDonnell Ranges
. This species is widespread in inland southern Australia.
Brachyscome obovata Kosciuszko NP. This species is restricted to wet sites in the high alps;
these plants were actually growing in running water.
Milky Beauty Heads Calocephalus lacteus National Botanic Gardens, Canberra.
The genus name means 'beautiful head'. This striking little daisy is scattered in wet grassy
sites in south-eastern Australia. Last time I featured the closely related Lemon Beauty Heads.
And another of the same genus, but this time a desert species.
Yellow Billy Button Calocephalus platycephalus, central Australia.
(And yes, Billy Button is more usually applied to Craspedia spp. but there are
no rules for common names!)
Purple Burr Daisy Calotis cuneifolia, Mutawintji NP, western NSW.
Can be abundant (often with Yellow Burr Daisy C. lappulacea below).
I discussed burr daisies last time regarding their effective seed dispersal mechanism
via sticky sharp burrs in fur and socks.

Yellow Burr Daisy, Canberra woodlands.

Sifton Bush Cassinia quinquefaria, Angle Crossing, ACT. A familiar genus of large
shrubs, which locally tend to flower in summer when not much else is doing so.
Some can cause skin complaints.

Silver Snow Daisy Celmisia sp. with beetle (Eleale sp.) and spider, Namadgi National Park.
Pompom Everlastings Cephalipterum drummondii near Mount Magnet, Western Australia.
The only member of its genus, it comes in both yellow and white, which can be
confusing initially.

Bear's Ears Cymobonotus lawsonianus or preissianus - the two are virtually
indistinguishable, so I haven't a hope! - Canberra.
Silver Ewartia Ewartia nubigena, Kosciuszko NP, forms creeping silvery mats in some of
the toughest habitats in Australia, living only above the treeline and south from Kosciuszko.
Blue Bottle Daisy Lagenophora stipitata, Namadgi NP.
This is a common grassland daisy in eastern Australia, and north into Asia.
Olearia is a large genus of conspicuous shrubs, herbs and small trees found in range of Australian, New Guinea and New Zealand habitats. I've included several because I couldn't work out which ones to leave out!
Alpine Daisy Bush Olearia algida, Kosciuszko NP. A shrub from the high country
of south-eastern Australia.
Large-leaved Daisy Bush Olearia megalophylla, Namadgi NP. A common large shrub
of the tall wet forests of the ranges of south-eastern Australia.
Twiggy Daisy Bush Olearia microphylla (cf the previous species), Timallallie NP, north-central NSW.
Olearia montana Tinderry Ranges, south-east of Canberra, is a rare shrub restricted
to the Tinderries and a couple of nearby sites.
Goldfields Daisy Olearia muelleri, Mildura, north-west Victoria. Found across semi-arid southern
Australia, but especially common in the Goldfields region of Western Australia around Kalgoorlie,
hence the common name.
Dusty Daisy Bush Olearia phloggopappa, Namadgi NP. This is, as you can see, quite a sight in flower.
It is common in the ranges of south-eastern Australia.
Sticky Daisy Bush Olearia tenuifolia, Mount Tennent, south of Canberra. Found
scattered in drier rocky areas of inland eastern New South Wales and Victoria, and
to me it's not at all common.

Grey Podolepis Podolepis canescens, Caiguna, Nullarbor Plain, Western Australia.
We met this genus last time, in alpine and arid situations. This is another example of the latter.
Mountain (or Cattleman's) Lettuce Podolepis robustus is another high country species.
It wasn't the cattleman who ate this with gusto but their cattle. When cattle were removed
from the fragile high alps the species (and many others) began to recover.
Soft Billy Buttons Pycnosorus pleiocephalus, Mutawintji NP, western NSW.
Widespread in dry inland south-eastern Australia, where it favours situations which are
periodically wet - clay pans or, like here, at the foot of a stony ridge.
Splendid Everlasting Rhodanthe chlorocephala, inland from Geraldton,
central west of Western Australia. I can't fault the common name, it is spectacular.
The black marks at the base of some of the bracts are interesting - they are not insects
but may well play a part in attracting pollinators to the adjacent disc florets.
The species is found across WA and into western South Australia.
White Paper Daisy Rhodanthe floribunda, on the edge of the stony Breakaways
near Coober Pedy. It is found in a discontinuous range across the whole of the arid inland.
Cotton Fireweed Senecio quadridentatus, Namadgi NP, ACT. Not the 'standard' daisy flower
we've been looking at and, moreover, it doesn't even resemble most other Senecio.
I find it a bit of a mystery. It is also found in Indonesia and New Zealand.
Streptoglossa decurrens or odora, Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia. The two species are
generally reckoned by those much better qualified than I as almost impossible to distinguish
with any certainty. They are found scattered across the tropical drylands.
Golden Waitzia Waitzia nitida, Kalbarri NP, Western Australia.
It is found across the south-western sector of the state.
This has been an extensive journey through the family album, and thank you for reading this far! Time to wrap up our daisy dedication now with some simple enjoyment of some fine spreads of daisies in various situations, starting in the high south-east and moving downhill and west.
Silver Snow Daisies Celmisia sp., Kosciuszko NP, above and below.
In the top picture there are also Mountain Aciphylls Aciphylla glacialis Family Apicaceae,
in the background.

Hill Daisies Brachyscome aculeata under the Snow Gums on Mount Ginini, Namadgi NP, ACT.

Hoary Sunrays Leucochrysum albicans, Liverpool Range near Merriwa, central western NSW.
(Also some feral Prickly Pear cactus on the left.)
Lemon Beauty Heads Callocephalon citreus brightening a summer native grassland,
Mulligans Flat NR, northern ACT.
Many-stemmed (or Woolly-headed) Burr Daisy Calotis multicaulis, Mutawintji NP, western NSW.
Pompom Everlastings Cephalipterum drummondii near Mount Magnet, Western Australia.
As noted earlier this spectacular species comes in both white and yellow.
A magnificent massed display in Kalbarri NP, WA. I think the stars here are
Splendid Everlastings Rhodanthe chlorocephala and Pink Everlastings Schoenia cassiniana.
I hope neither of us is daisied out, but I think that's enough for today! Thanks for coming on the journey with me, and I'm looking forward to wherever we may travel together next time. But meantime, love your daisies!


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